Studies have shown that a mother’s sense of peripersonal space alters during pregnancy. Peripersonal space is defined as the area of space immediately around the pregnant woman’s body and is regarded as measuring at an arm’s length away.
As per a new study, a pregnant woman’s “safety bubble” or peripersonal space increases during her third trimester to keep danger away. This is unlike the second trimester and eight weeks following childbirth when women did not exhibit any change to their sense of personal space.
The study assessed pregnant women aged between 21 and 43 and a control group of non-pregnant women and concluded that the expanded peripersonal space “may represent a mechanism to protect the vulnerable abdomen from injury from surrounding objects”.
For the study, the women had to take part in an audio-tactile reaction time task 20 weeks into their pregnancies, at 34 weeks and eight weeks after giving birth. This test involved the participants experiencing tapping sensations on their abdomens while being exposed to noise from loudspeakers.
Senior author of the study Dr Flavia Cardini said this was the “brain’s way of ensuring danger is kept at arm’s length”. When the body goes through “significantly large changes” during pregnancy, the “maternal brain” also makes changes to the immediate area around the body.